News flash: you don’t actually have to spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring — that particular adage came from a Depression-era De Beers campaign to sell diamonds.
Wedding website The Knot reports the average cost of an engagement ring is about $6,000, which is still an unattainable price for a lot of people hoping to get engaged. A New York Times survey found that most people actually spend between $500 and $1,400.
If you’re hoping to get engaged but can’t afford to spend thousands on an expensive engagement ring, you can find an affordable engagement ring without sacrificing size or beauty.
To help you find the perfect engagement ring for the love of your life, we put together a list of:
Affordable engagement rings: 8 ideas
1. Estate and antique rings
You can save money on an engagement ring by purchasing an estate or antique ring.
Jessica Bishop, founder of The Budget Savvy Bride blog and author of The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer, has built a career around helping couples save money on their nuptials.
She recommends couples check out Etsy or ebay for antique rings or visit a local jewelry store that specializes in antique or vintage jewelry.
You can also keep an eye out for local estate sales to find a timeless and affordable engagement ring for your partner.
As an example of the cost savings you can expect, I found a 1-carat vintage diamond engagement ring for $3,199.99 on ebay. Then I created a diamond with the same specs (1 carat, I color, SI2 clarity, 14k yellow gold setting) on Brilliant Earth, an online jewelry retailer, which was quoted at $4,690.
Suzanne Martinez, jewelry historian, senior gemologist and co-owner of Lang Antiques based in San Francisco, recommends buying estate/antique jewelry from a trusted and knowledgeable source who can tell you exactly what you’re buying and give information about the ring’s history.
However, if you don’t buy directly from a jeweler or antique dealer, Martinez suggests checking the ring’s markings.
“Those tiny little marks found on jewelry can carry a wealth of knowledge,” Martinez says. “They are the key to solving who made the piece, where and when it was made, metal fineness, style number, etc.”
You can also get a jewelry appraisal on whatever ring you buy to discover its value and what stones/metals it contains.
If you discover the ring you bought isn't what you thought, you can always sell your engagement ring to get money to buy a new one.
2. Engagement rings on consignment
You can find affordable engagement rings from online consignment shops like TheRealReal, Poshmark, Mercari and I Do Now I Don’t, as well as brick-and-mortar consignment stores that carry fine jewelry.
These are some affordable engagement rings available on TheRealReal:
3. Gemstone rings
Bishop says gemstone engagement rings are becoming increasingly popular among brides with more eclectic tastes. They also offer potentially large cost savings over traditional diamond engagement rings.
These are some popular gemstones for more affordable engagement rings:
The Gemological Institute of America offers a Gemstone Encyclopedia with information about popular gemstones and what buyers should look for in a quality gem:
The prices of these gemstones vary depending on the deepness of their color, as well as their cut, size, and quality.
When choosing an alternate gemstone for an affordable engagement ring, consider the hardness of the stone for durability. For a ring that will be worn every day, the gemstone should be rated at least a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale or higher.
This information is listed for each gemstone on the GIA site. This is the fact sheet for aquamarine, which is rated between 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale:
4. Lab-grown diamond rings
Lab-grown diamonds are genuine diamonds, created under the same conditions as an earth-mined diamond, says Loni Arnold, gemologist and manager of Arnold Jewelers in Largo, Fla. The difference is that lab-grown diamonds are created in a controlled environment rather than deep within the Earth's crust millions (or billions) of years ago.
“There is no way to tell the difference between an Earth-mined and lab-grown diamond without the use of pricey machine instruments,” Arnold says.
She says lab-grown diamonds are available in a wide range of qualities, sizes, and shapes and can typically be purchased at about half the cost of an earth-mined diamond.
“These types of diamonds are limitless, so we can expect to see more and more of them on the market,” Arnold says. “As this happens, it will reduce their value more and more.”
5. Moissanite rings
Moissanite is another alternative diamond grown in a laboratory that exhibits many of the same qualities of a diamond.
“On a refractometer, it identifies as a diamond and has the name strength as a diamond,” Arnold says.
Moissanite tends to refract more light than a diamond and therefore has more “sparkle.” It has a 9.5/10 hardness rating on the Mohs scale (diamonds have a 10 rating).
According to the International Gem Society, you can get a moissanite stone the size of a 1-carat diamond for less than $1,000. For a diamond this size, you’d pay at least $3,000, with significant compromises in color and clarity.
Moissanite is available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, is typically free of any noteworthy flaws, and is colorless or nearly colorless.
6. White gold vs. platinum
According to New York City jeweler Frank Darling, a white gold engagement ring costs about $300 less on average than a platinum ring.
For reference, these two identical settings from online jewelry retailer Blue Nile — one in 14k white gold and one in platinum — have a price difference of $350:
However, there are some things you have to consider when you’re trying to decide between a white gold vs. platinum engagement ring setting:
- Platinum is a naturally white metal, while white gold is made from pure gold plated in a white metal (typically rhodium). The natural gold color will start to shine through with general wear and tear, so it’s recommended that you have your white gold engagement ring replated every six months to a year. (I recently had to pay about $75 to have my white gold ring replated). However, you don’t have to have your engagement ring replated that often (or at all) if you are OK with your ring taking on some of those warmer tones over time.
- Platinum is hypoallergenic. Most white gold rings are plated in a hypoallergenic metal, though the natural gold will begin to come through over time.
- White gold is harder to scratch than platinum, though platinum is stiffer and does a better job of keeping gemstones in place.
When shopping for an affordable engagement ring, it's a smart move to skip luxury brands like Harry Winston or stores that are often more expensive just because of their brand appeal.
As an example of the price markup on luxury brands, a 1-carat platinum solitaire diamond engagement ring from Tiffany’s is more than double the cost of a nearly identical ring from online jewelry retailer James Allen. Both rings have the same color, cut, and clarity:
Arnold says you may be able to get additional cost savings by visiting a local jeweler over a chain jeweler like Kay’s or Zales.
“Shopping at a local family jewelry store not only benefits a local business and helps put food on their family's table, but oftentimes they offer items at fair market value so that your money goes farther,” Arnold says.
She says it’s important to shop around and compare prices on similar rings from different jewelers and to avoid making impulsive and uninformed decisions when you’re shopping for an affordable engagement ring.
“Oftentimes, a jewelry store like our shop can custom make any designer ring for a fraction of the price,” Arnold says.
8. Engagement rings on sale
Bishop recommends keeping an eye out for seasonal sales and signing up for email lists to be informed of current and upcoming engagement ring deals.
“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to look for deals, since engagement season tends to be Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day,” Bishop says.
9) Look for used engagement rings for sale
There are many scenarios in which someone may sell their engagement ring, affording you a lower-priced, discounted engagement ring since the resale price of diamonds and other fine jewelry is about half of the current retail price:
- She (or he) said no
- Inherited engagement ring from someone who passed away
- Couple upgraded their ring, and no longer use this one
Best places to find affordable engagement rings:
Ready to start shopping? We put together a list of places to buy an affordable engagement ring your partner will love:
Consignment shops that buy and sell fine jewelry can be great places to find affordable engagement rings. You can also try shopping online consignors like TheRealReal, Poshmark, and Mercari.
eBay is perhaps the most popular platform for buying and selling used stuff, and that includes engagement rings. Just make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller with a high rating and that you check buyer reviews before purchasing.
A good rule of thumb? If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Etsy is a gold mine — pun intended — for people shopping for affordable and unique engagement rings. Many independent jewelry makers have set up shop here, which means you can purchase a beautiful, custom engagement ring without paying jewelry store prices.
Again, check shop and product reviews to avoid scams or low-quality engagement rings.
A site for pre-owned luxury goods, Gemma offers a wide selection of engagement rings at a steep discount, including pieces from Tiffany, De Beers, Cartier, David Yurman, Gucci, and Dior.
Capucinne is an online jewelry shop that features affordable, whimsically-designed custom wedding and engagement rings. You can choose from ready-to-ship ring designs or work with Capucinne to create your own custom ring. Here are some affordable engagement rings available on Capucinne:
You may be able to buy an affordable engagement ring from a local pawn shop if you find one that deals in fine jewelry.
Another resale platform for luxury goods, TheRealReal frequently has an influx of pre-owned, affordably priced engagement rings.
Local jewelry stores
Local jewelry stores can often work within your budget to help you find or create an engagement ring your partner will love, without chain store markups.
Online jewelry stores
Bishop says online retailers like Blue Nile, James Allen, and Frank Darling are great places to search for affordable engagement rings because you can easily browse a wider assortment of styles and specs.
Shopping online also allows you to price compare similar rings across multiple retailers.
Antique and estate store/dealers
Engagement ring shopping at an estate sale or antique store can land you a one-of-a-kind ring at a fraction of the cost. You can also find antique rings online from sites like Etsy and ebay.
Like with any major purchase, make sure to read reviews or request documents to ensure the ring you're purchasing is legitimate. You can also look at the ring’s markings to learn more about it.